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Malcolm Lowry

Malcolm Lowry, aged 37.
Born Malcolm Lowry
28 July 1909(1909-07-28)
Wallasey, Merseyside, England
Died 26 June 1957 (aged 47)
Ripe, East Sussex, England
Occupation Novelist, poet
Literary movement Modernism
Notable work(s) Ultramarine (1933), Under the Volcano (1947), Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961), Lunar Caustic (1968), Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid (1968), October Ferry to Gabriola (1970)
Spouse(s) Jan Gabriel (1934-1937)
Margerie Bonner (1940-1957 (his death))

Malcolm Lowry (28 July 1909 – 26 June 1957) was a British poet and novelist who was best known for his novel, Under the Volcano.



Lowry was born in Wallasey, in the English county of Cheshire (now Merseyside), and was educated at The Leys School and St Catharine's College, Cambridge. By the time he graduated in 1931, the twin obsessions which would dominate his life — alcohol and literature — were firmly in place. Lowry was already well travelled, having sailed to the Far East as a deck hand on the Pyrrhus between school and university and made visits to America and Germany between terms. After Cambridge, Lowry lived briefly in London, existing on the fringes of the vibrant thirties literary scene and meeting Dylan Thomas, amongst others. Following this, he moved to France, where he married his first wife, Jan Gabrial, in 1934. It was a turbulent union, and, after an estrangement, Lowry followed her to New York (where he entered the Bellevue Hospital in 1936 following an alcohol-induced break-down) and then to Hollywood, where he tried his hand at screenwriting.

The couple moved to the Mexican city of Cuernavaca in late 1936, in a final attempt to salvage their marriage. This failed, however, and in late 1937, Lowry was left alone in Oaxaca and entered another period of dark alcoholic excess, culminating in his being deported from the country. In 1939, he moved to Canada, and the following year he married his second wife, actress and writer Margerie Bonner. The couple lived and wrote in a squatter's shack on the beach near Dollarton in British Columbia, north of Vancouver. Margerie was an entirely positive influence, editing Lowry's work skillfully and making sure that he ate as well as drank (she was no slouch herself, when it came to drinking). The couple travelled to Europe, America and the Caribbean, and while Lowry continued to drink heavily, this seems to have been a relatively peaceful and productive period. It would last until 1954, when a final nomadic period ensued, embracing New York and London, amongst other places.

Lowry died in the village of Ripe, East Sussex, where he was living with his wife. Certainly alcohol, and possibly an overdose of sleeping pills, contributed to what the coroner recorded as "death by misadventure."


Lowry published little during his lifetime, in comparison with the extensive collection of unfinished manuscripts he left. Of his two novels, Under the Volcano (1947) is now widely accepted not only as his masterpiece but also as one of the great works of the 20th century (number 11 on the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. [1]) It exemplifies Lowry's method as a writer, which involved drawing heavily upon autobiographical material and imbuing it with complex and allusive layers of symbolism. Under the Volcano depicts a series of complex and unwillingly destructive relationships and is set against a rich evocation of Mexico.

Ultramarine (1933), written while Lowry was still an undergraduate, follows a young man's first sea voyage and his determination to gain the crew's acceptance.

A collection of short stories, Hear Us, O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961) was published after Lowry's death. The scholar and poet Earle Birney edited Selected Poems of Malcolm Lowry (1962). He also collaborated with Lowry's widow in editing the novella Lunar Caustic (1968) for re-publication. It is a conflation of several earlier pieces concerned with Bellevue Hospital, which Lowry was in the process of rewriting as a complete novel. With Douglas Day, Lowry's first biographer, Lowry's widow has also completed and edited the novels Dark as the Grave Wherein my Friend is Laid (1968) and October Ferry to Gabriola (1970) from Lowry's manuscripts.

The Selected Letters of Malcolm Lowry, edited by his widow and Harvey Breit, was released in 1965, followed in 1995-6 by the two volume Sursam Corda! The Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry, edited by Sherrill E. Grace. Scholarly editions of Lowry's final work in progress, La Mordida and his screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night have also been issued.

Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (1976) is an Oscar-nominated National Film Board of Canada documentary produced by Donald Brittain and Robert A. Duncan and directed by Brittain and John Kramer.[2] It opens with the inquest into Lowry's "death by misadventure," and then moves back in time to trace the writer's life. Selections from Lowry's novel are read by Richard Burton amid images shot in Mexico, the United States, Canada and England. [3]


Posthumous releases

  • Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961)
  • Selected Poems of Malcolm Lowry (1962)
  • Lunar Caustic (1968)
  • Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid (1968)
  • October Ferry to Gabriola (1970)
  • The Voyage That Never Ends (2007), selected stories, poems, and letters; edited by Michael Hofmann

Further Reading

  • Grace, Sherrill. (2009). Strange Comfort: Essays on the Work of Malcolm Lowry. Talonbooks: Vancouver: BC. ISBN 978-0-88922-618-0


  • Lowry, a Biography, Douglas Day (1973)
  • Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry,[4] National Film Board of Canada, (1976)
  • Malcolm Lowry Remembered, G. Bowker, ed (1985)
  • Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry, G. Bowker (1993)
  • Inside the Volcano: My Life with Malcolm Lowry, Jan Gabrial (2000)



  • Asals, Frederick, The making of Malcolm Lowry's Under the volcano (University of Georgia: Athens, 1997)
  • Bareham, Tony, Modern Novelists: Malcolm Lowry (St Martins: New York, 1989)
  • Bowker, Gordon, ed, Malcolm Lowry Remembered (Ariel: London, 1985)
  • Bradbrook, M.C., Malcolm Lowry: His Art and Early Life (CUP: Cambridge, 1974)
  • Cross, Richard K., Malcolm Lowry: a preface to his fiction (Athlone Press: London, 1980)
  • Miller, David, Malcolm Lowry and the voyage that never ends (Enitharmon Press: London, 1976)
  • Smith, Anne, The art of Malcolm Lowry (Vision: London, 1978)
  • Stevenson, Randall, The British Novel Since the Thirties (Batsford: London, 1986)
  • Vice, Sue, Malcolm Lowry eighty years on (St. Martins Press: New York, 1989)
  • Woolmer, J. Howard, Malcolm Lowry: a bibliography (Woolmer/Brotherson: Pennsylvania, 1983)

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Malcolm Lowry (1909-07-281957-06-26) was an English poet and novelist best known for his novel Under the Volcano.


Under the Volcano (1947)

New American Library, 1971, LCC 65-11640

  • No se puede vivir sin amar.
    • Translation: It is not possible to live without loving.
    • Ch. I (p. 6)
  • There was no mistaking, even in the uncertain light, the hand, half crabbed, half generous, and wholly drunken, of the Consul himself, the Greek e’s, the flying buttresses of d’s, the t’s like lonely wayside crosses save where they crucified an entire word.
    • Ch. I (p. 35)
  • The howling pariah dogs, the cocks that herald dawn all night, the drumming, the moaning that will be found later white plumage huddled on telegraph wires in back gardens or fowl roosting in apple trees, the eternal sorrow that never sleeps of great Mexico.
    • Ch. I (p. 35)
  • And this is how I sometimes think of myself, as a great explorer who has discovered some extraordinary land from which he can never return to give his knowledge to the world: but the name of this land is hell.
    • Ch. I (p. 36)
  • What beauty can compare to that of a cantina in the early morning?
    • Ch. II (p. 49)
  • For a time they confronted each other like two mute unspeaking forts.
    • Ch. III (p. 75)
  • How shall the murdered man convince his assassin he will not haunt him.
    • Ch. III (p. 79)
  • But my lord, Yvonne, surely you know by this time I can’t get drunk however much I drink.
    • Ch. III (p. 85)
  • Nothing in the world was more terrible than an empty bottle! Unless it was an empty glass.
    • Ch. III (p. 86)
  • There was something in the wild strength of this landscape, once a battlefield, that seemed to be shouting at him, a presence born of that strength whose cry his whole being recognized as familiar, caught and threw back into the wind, some youthful passage of courage and pride — the passionate, yet so nearly always hypocritical, affirmation of one’s soul perhaps, he thought, of the desire to be, to do, good, what was right.
    • Ch. IV (p. 124)
  • And yet, in these old women it was as if, through the various tragedies of Mexican history, pity, the impulse to approach, and terror, the impulse to escape (as one had learned at college), having replaced it, had finally been reconciled by prudence, the conviction it is better to stay where you are.
    • Ch. VIII (pp. 248-249)
  • What is man but a little soul holding up a corpse?
    • Ch. X (p. 287)
  • Suddenly he saw them, the bottles of aguardiente, of anís, of jerez, of Highland Queen, the glasses, a babel of glasses—towering, like the smoke from the train that day—built to the sky, then falling, the glasses toppling and crashing, falling downhill from the Generalife Gardens, the bottles breaking, bottles of Oporto, tinto, blanco, bottles of Pernod, Oxygènée, absinthe, bottles smashing, bottles cast aside, falling with a thud on the ground in parks, under benches, beds, cinema seats, hidden in drawers at Consulates, bottles of Calvados dropped and broken, or bursting into smithereens, tossed into garbage heaps, flung into the sea, the Mediterranean, the Caspian, the Caribbean, bottles floating in the ocean, dead Scotchmen on the Atlantic highlands—and now he saw them, smelt them, all, from the very beginning—bottles, bottles, bottles, and glasses, glasses, glasses, of bitter, of Dubonnet, of Falstaff, Rye, Johnny Walker, Vieux Whiskey blanc Canadien, the apéritifs, the digestifs, the demis, the dobles, the noch ein Herr Obers, the et glas Araks, the tusen taks, the bottles, the bottles, the beautiful bottles of tequila, and the gourds, gourds, gourds, the millions of gourds of beautiful mescal . . .
    • Ch. X (p. 292)
  • God, how pointless and empty the world is! Days filled with cheap and tarnished moments succeed each other, restless and haunted nights follow in bitter routine: the sun shines without brightness, and the moon rises without light.
    • Ch. XII (p. 346)
  • I want your life filling and stirring me. I want your happiness beneath my heart and your sorrows in my eyes and your peace in the fingers of my hand.
    • Ch. XII (p. 346)
  • I wake to a darkness in which I must follow myself endlessly, hating the I who so eternally pursues and confronts me. If we could rise from our misery, seek each other once more, and find again the solace of each other’s lips and eyes.
    • Ch. XII (p. 346)
  • How alike are the groans of love, to those of the dying.
    • Ch. XII (p. 351)
  • "What for you lie?" the Chief of Rostrums repeated in a glowering voice. "You say your name is Black. No es Black." He shoved him backwards toward the door. "You say you are a wrider." He shoved him again. "You no are a wrider." He pushed the Consul more violently, but the Consul stood his ground. "You are no a de wrider, you are de espider, and we shoota de espiders in Méjico."
    • Ch. XII (p. 371)
  • "Christ," he remarked, puzzled, "this is a dingy way to die."
    • Ch. XII (p. 373)

External links

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Simple English

Malcolm Lowry (1909—1957) was a British writer. He is most famous for his 1947 novel Under the Volcano about an alcoholic Consul in Mexico. Lowry was himself an alcoholic and a lot of his writings were about the effect alcohol had on his life and on the lives of his characters.


  • Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. Penguin edition 2000 (Introduction by Michael Schmidt)

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